U.S. Presents Draft Declaration on Religious Rights to U.N. Body
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U.S. Presents Draft Declaration on Religious Rights to U.N. Body

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A draft United Nations Declaration calling on all governments to guarantee every form of religious rights and practices to all people throughout the world was introduced today by an American representative at the current session of the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

The draft was introduced by Morris B. Abram of Atlanta. Mr. Abram is chairman of the executive board of the American Jewish Committee but serves in the subcommission, along with 13 other members, as an individual expert.

The document which, it is hoped, would ultimately be adopted by the General Assembly, would affect directly the Jews of the Soviet Union, guaranteeing to them all of the religious rights which they are now denied, including the rights to have matzohs, observance of the Jewish dietary laws, print and distribute prayer books, make or buy prayer shawls, keep their synagogues open, hold national and regional religious conferences, and maintain contacts with Jewish religious organizations outside of the Soviet Union.

The two Soviet bloc experts on the subcommission–Boris S. Ivanov of the Soviet Union and Wojciech Ketrzynski of Poland–have made strenuous efforts to keep from the subcommission debate exactly the kind of draft introduced by Mr. Abram. The Communist representatives have insisted on centering attention instead on a draft declaration wiping out all racial intolerance, evidently hoping that the debate on racism would be so prolonged that the group would never reach the religious freedom item.

While Mr. Abram himself favors adoption of the draft declaration for the elimination of racial intolerance, having introduced such a draft, be nevertheless bypassed the Communist filibuster by introducing the document he entitled “Draft Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance.” In accordance with subcommission rules, the document does not mention the Soviet Union or any other country.


The draft declaration calls on the UN, its specialized agencies and all member governments to promote “energetic action through research, education and information” to wipe out all religious bias. It also calls on all member governments to adopt “appropriate legislation with a view to hastening the elimination of all forms of religious discrimination and intolerance.”

Under the provisions of the Declaration, all persons are to have the rights to “teach the doctrines, precepts, rites, traditions and sacred languages of their religious belief in public or in private.” That clause would legalize the use of the Hebrew language for religious purposes in the Soviet Union.

All religious believers would have the right, under the Declaration, to “establish and maintain houses of worship, religious schools and congregational, charitable and educational institutions for the furtherance of religious purposes.” Religious groups would have the right to hold meetings and organize “on a local, regional and international level for religious, educational or charitable purposes.”

They would also have the right to “communicate freely with their co-religionists and with other religious organizations and groups, to visit the Holy Places, to send representatives and observers to religious conferences and meetings, and to receive representatives, observers and visitors from religious organizations and groups in their own and other countries.” Thus, under the latter clause, religious Russian Jews could be in touch again with Jewish religious organizations throughout the world, as well as have the right to visit Israel.


The declaration authorizes freedom of writing, printing and publishing religious books and religious literature. It calls for producing, importing, selling or otherwise distributing religious objects “dietary foods,” or other articles and facilities “customarily used for worship or performance of religious observances. Aiming directly at the Soviet Union where all means of production and distribution are controlled by the Government, the Declaration would make it mandatory on such governments to aid religious groups to obtain “objects, foods, articles or facilities or the means of producing or procuring them.”

All persons of any religion would have to be given, under the Declaration, the freedom to “observe the High Holy Days, religious rites, ceremonies and burial customs prescribed by their religious belief.”

Another clause in the Declaration would give to all religious believers “recourse to competent courts or other national tribunals for the purpose of seeking an effective remedy for discrimination threatened or suffered by reason of religion or belief.” The Declaration states categorically that “everyone shall be free to manifest his religion and belief in public or in private, alone or in community with others, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

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